Roughly 300,000 people cross the US-Canadian border every day. That adds up to more than 20 million trips by Americans to Canada every year, and closer to 40 million trips by Canadians to the United States. With so many trips made between our two countries, you’d think there wouldn’t be any confusion about passport requirements to cross the border, but there are unique factors that our guide will discuss in depth.
Flying Between Canada and the United States
All travelers flying between the United States and Canada – or the United States and any international destination – must have a valid passport book. The requirement for passport books for all international air travel is part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and has been in effect since January 2007. Even newborn babies must have a passport book in order to board an international flight!
Crossing the Border by Land
By far, the most popular way to enter Canada is by land. There are a number of options for documentation for both US and Canadian citizens to use to clear immigration at a land border, including:
- Valid Passport Book
- Valid Passport Card (US citizens only)
- Enhanced Driver’s License
- NEXUS Trusted Traveler card
Adults over age 16 must have one of the documents listed above to cross the border by land. Children under age 16 traveling with their parents can use one of the above-listed documents, or they can enter Canada by showing alternate proof of US citizenship. The acceptable documents are:
- Original birth certificate showing birth in the US. This must be the long-form birth certificate showing both parents’ names.
- Original Consular Record of Birth Abroad (for children born overseas to US citizen parents)
- Original or certified copy of US Naturalization Certificate
Traveling Between the US and Canada by Sea
Most travel between the US and Canada is conducted by car or plane, but there are many options to travel between the two nations by ship, including cruises and scheduled ferry services. Passport requirements for US and Canadian citizens crossing the border at a sea port of entry have the same passport requirements as travelers who are entering via land.
Please note that if you are traveling on a cruise, most cruise lines ask passengers to travel with a valid passport book in case you need to fly back to the US due to an emergency situation.
Supplemental Documents for Travel to Canada
It is recommended that all travelers, particularly those who will spend at least one night in Canada, carry some form of documentation showing the nature of their trip. This could be a copy of hotel reservations, a letter of invitation from a Canadian host, or tickets to an event in Canada.
Business travelers should carry a letter from their employer in the US that explains the nature of their business trip to Canada. The letter should be on company letterhead, and must have an original ink signature of a manager of the company other than the traveler.
US citizens may stay up to 180 days in Canada without a visa for tourist or business visits. If you plan to work or study in Canada, a visa is required.